University Libraries, University of New Mexico

Fran Wilkinson, Interim Dean of the University Libraries at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, discusses the impact of a fire at the academic library in April 2006.

Interview date: July 31st, 2007

Questions:

(1.) What happened in your community (i.e., what was the disaster/emergency)?

On Sunday, April 30, 2006 at approximately 10:51pm (one hour before the library closed and more importantly, one week before UNM’s finals week for students), a fire alarm sounded from the first basement level of Zimmerman Library. Zimmerman is the largest of the four branch libraries of the University Libraries. Although the fire was contained in the northeast section of the basement destroying over a dozen ranges of bound journals (estimated 30,000 volumes lost and 100,000 volumes removed for cleaning and restoration), there was significant smoke damage throughout the entire 280,000 square foot building including the historic West Wing.

(2.) How did the library respond? How did the librarian respond? Were there non-traditional (unusual) roles that the librarian performed?

Library and University Response

University Libraries (UL) personnel safely evacuated the entire facility within minutes. Three stations of the Albuquerque Fire Department, UNM Campus Police, and other key response personnel were immediately dispatched to the library. Key members of the University Libraries Disaster Recovery Assistance Team (D.R.A.T.) were also immediately called. The Associate Dean, Fran Wilkinson, and the Facilities Manager, Ed Padilla, were onsite within an hour after the fire started and provided critical information to the Fire Marshal, Campus Police, UNM’s Physical Plant and Safety and Risk Services. These two DRAT members remained on site the entire night monitoring the situation, reviewing pertinent parts of the UL’s disaster preparedness plan, and preparing an outline of the actions needed in the coming days and weeks. The Associate Dean notified members of Libraries’ D.R.A.T. and activated the phone tree to notify other essential personnel. The first D.R.A.T. meeting was called for 8:00 a.m. the next morning.

The D.R.A.T. meeting resulted in immediate plans to redeploy the 100 plus employees who normally work in Zimmerman Library including faculty/librarians, support staff, administration, and student employees. A fire recovery command center was established in a branch library (Centennial Science & Engineering Library) and all efforts were coordinated from there. Services to students and faculty were fully coordinated including:

  • Reference service stations were set up in the Student Union building and the Student Services building with full electronic access to information services through the use of laptops and cell phones (first day after the fire).
  • Notification to students and faculty about the closure of Zimmerman and where to find alternative services was sent through several internal electronic and print methods.
  • Information stations/tents at both entrances to Zimmerman Library were staffed to answer questions and direct customers to alternative service sites.
  • UL InterLibrary Loan department set up temporary offices and began providing access to books and journals normally located in Zimmerman.
  • Online book paging system was set up that gave access to collections not unduly affected by smoke damage with a 24-hour turn around time.

Over the next few weeks, all journals, microforms, and newspapers located in Zimmerman Library were removed by the company hired to manage this aspect of the damage (BMS-CAT). Those collections remain in Ft. Worth, Texas undergoing remediation services (They are expected to be returned during the Fall 2007 semester. The reconstructed basement is scheduled to reopen in early in the Spring 2008 semester.)

Unusual Roles

The role and responsibilities of every UL employee were impacted by the fire in some way whether specifically involved in the recovery or by adding to an employee’s overall volume of work. All provided information about the fire and directed our customers to the alternative services in place. Many stepped in to staff the reference desks around campus. Our IT offices were located in the basement but fortunately, all servers were located off-site in the campus-wide IT facility, so no loss of data or access to online catalogs or websites were experienced. The library IT staff quickly began working to install new desktop and laptop computers for all displaced employees and for the temporary public services information desks. Our accountants processed the first payroll after the fire on time in spite of having to process it manually in a temporary location. Staff and students volunteered for the book paging system. This required them to wear hard hats and masks, working only two hours at a time on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building to avoid excessive exposure to smoke damaged areas. A few key employees were called upon to coordinate the difficult job of sifting through the thousands of bound journals that were not completely burned to determine which were still salvageable – a job that required a hard hat, a respirator, and boots! Facilities staff also assisted with the removal of all journals, microforms, cabinets, shelving, equipment, and furnishings in the basement. All of the employees who normally work in Zimmerman worked in unfamiliar environments as they relocated in one of the other branch libraries, often at make-shift desks and shared computers. The employees who do not work in Zimmerman shifted their work spaces to make room for these redeployed employees – and always with grace and humor. We should add that approximately one-third (about 50 individuals) of all the displaced employees still have still not returned to their normal work environments as the rebuild of their spaces is currently underway. We anticipate their return in late 2007.

An unusual aspect to the recovery was that Zimmerman Library’s alarm system was only partially functional after the fire. The Fire Marshall permitted reoccupation of the building, but only if a manual “fire watch” was deployed until the alarm services were fully operational again. This involved scheduling individuals to patrol all areas of the building during our hours of operation. The fire watch squads were outfitted with hard hats and air horns and were tasked with alerting the building’s occupants at any sign of fire. UL employees were called upon to provide fire watch duty of up to five hours per week. More than three months later, fire watch duties were turned over to a security agency.

(3.) How has the library (or the services provided) changed as a result of these events?

Our recovery efforts have led to several innovations that are still used today including unique workflows, streamlined procedures, and synergistic work unit configurations. The rebuilding process also provided several opportunities to improve work unit and public spaces including a marked increase in public computer stations, group study space, as well as better access to collections.

The basement area that burned will be fitted with a new compact shelving system thanks to funding provided by the state legislature and UNM’s administration, dramatically increasing needed collection space. Our collection losses also allowed for some creative thinking on the part of faculty in the various departments whose collections were affected. These scholars and researchers will provide input regarding which of the lost bound journals can be replaced electronically and which can be stored remotely, again, saving much needed space.

A fire loss of this magnitude also brings out the best in a library’s established contributors, the community at large, and other library professionals. We experienced an outpouring of help from each of these groups and have established relationships that will continue to grow.

(4.) What, in your opinion, are the roles for libraries (and librarians) in disaster planning, response and recovery efforts?

Libraries and their employees must play primary and instrumental roles in every aspect of emergency preparedness, planning, and recovery. Policies, response teams, priorities, and resources should be established, tested, and then revisited on a regular cycle. This has been the UL’s practice since the mid-1990s. These elements are critical to ensure first rate functionality of the facility and continuance of first rate services to our customers. I believe that every library employee has a critical role to play in the response to and recovery from a disaster affecting the library and its customers. Some of those roles are small and some are huge, but none are less than essential.

(5.) Please describe the nature of your relationship with emergency agencies or groups.

The UL has long-held working relationships with the State Fire Marshall Office, the UNM Fire Marshall, the UNM Safety and Risk Services, its Physical Plant Services, UNM Campus Police, Office of Capital Projects, Architects, Engineers, and various emergency response suppliers and contractors. Through our Administration and Facilities Services departments we constantly update and strengthen these ties. The UL also maintains a Preservation Committee and several members of the UL staff and faculty belong to the New Mexico Library Association’s New Mexico Preservation Alliance. Both of these committees are actively involved in disaster response and recovery planning and provide advice to other libraries throughout the state.

Terrorism Information Center, Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, Oklahoma

Brad Robison, Director of the Terrorism Information Center at the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, discusses his experience during the bombing in Oklahoma City in April 1995 and the disaster information services the library currently provides.

Interview date: July 18th, 2007

Questions:

(1.) What happened in your community? (i.e., what was the disaster/emergency)?

It was a beautiful spring morning on April 19, 1995. No one could have known that before the end of this particular day thousands of lives would change forever. As the director of a small private university library in Oklahoma City, I arrived at the library early that morning and began to settle in for the expected rush of students who had put off completing term papers until the last moment. It was about 9:00 a.m. and I was having a conversation with one of the reference librarians when suddenly the building shook and the windows rattled violently. Having taken numerous study groups to Japan and having experienced several minor earthquakes I immediately thought EARTHQUAKE. My second thought was, no this is Oklahoma, not a typical site for a violent earthquake. Geneva, the reference librarian, thought the weight of shelving and journals on the third floor of our building had finally taken its toll and the floor collapsed. I headed for the stairwell fully expecting people to be running down as I was running up but no one was in sight. When I arrived on the third floor I quickly surmised nothing had fallen but saw smoke rising from the downtown Oklahoma City skyline. Of course not knowing to put the smoke with the sudden shaking of the building, I determined that what Geneva and I had felt and heard was nothing more than a sonic boom from Tinker Air Force Base, just east of Oklahoma City.

Several minutes passed before my phone started ringing and friends in New York were calling to ask me what was going on in Oklahoma City. Not having turned on the TV I was unaware of what they were referring to. I rolled one of our TV’s into the lobby of the library, turned it on and saw for the first time the carnage of what ended up being a terrorist attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. At first, the reports were “there has been some sort of explosion downtown.” Perhaps it was a gas explosion. The thought of a terrorist bomb was not mentioned for nearly half an hour. The library, being at the physical center of the campus was a hub for the students to gather and watch the story unfold. Our staff brought in extra chairs as more and more students came by to see what was going on. The immediate thought on everyone’s mind was what we can do to help.

(2.) How did the library respond? How did the librarian/s respond? Were there non-traditional (unusual) roles that the librarian/s performed?

The lobby of the library quickly became the focal point on campus where students and faculty could easily learn the needs of the emergency response community. People gathered around the TV to know where to go to donate blood, where to take food and where donations were being collected. The lobby of the library also became a place for the sharing of tears as we learned that the explosion was probably caused by a fellow human full of hatred. We were learning too that children may have been included in the list of those that were obviously not going to survive the explosion and collapse of the building. By afternoon, the beautiful spring morning had given way to thunderstorms and a city full of shock and grief as the victims were removed from the bombed out building, one body at a time.

When the dust and debris cleared 168 people, including 19 children were killed and hundreds more seriously injured. Out of the rubble a plan for a multi-component memorial was established. The memorial was to consist of a remembrance component an educational component and a research component. It was the dream of the family members and survivors that the research component have a library and information center as the “living memorial” to their loved ones. Thus the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism was founded. An act of Congress was passed and appropriation made to begin development of the “premier source of terrorism information sharing among federal, state and local agencies.”

As the steering committee for the development of the Institute and Library began their work, it became clear the emergency response community would need to be actively involved in creating this new resource of information. As a volunteer for the Memorial Archive, I was invited to be on the steering committee for the development of the Institute’s information center and library. Though not apparent at the time, the need for information professionals, both librarians and archivists was a necessity. Thousands of cards, letters and artifacts were mailed to the bomb site along with thousands more being left at the scene on a daily basis. Archiving and preserving this information was the foundation of what later became the Memorial Museum. Many of the documents collected early on became the basis of the future Lessons Learned Information Sharing, (LLIS) the official lessons learned site for the Department of Homeland Security. Final reports, after action reports, studies, etc. from numerous agencies were collected with the hope of assisting other communities in preparation dealing with a similar mass casualty event. Reports and studies following a variety of terrorist incidents and natural disasters make up the LLIS database.

Fire and law enforcement professionals were brought to the table to assist in the establishment of key databases that would help these groups prepare and perhaps prevent future acts of terrorism. The Responder Knowledge Base (RKB) was created to assist the emergency response community know what protective clothing and equipment is available and whether or not it meets standards and who certified the equipment against the standards. The RKB also informs the emergency response community if grant money is available in order for them to make application.

The MIPT Terrorism Information Center and Library (TIC) is a wealth of information not only for the emergency response community but for academics, policy makers, and the public at large. Thousands of documents have been added to the TIC along with nearly 3,000 book titles easily available for checkout. Information on the topic of terrorism seems to be endless and the need to collect, organize and disseminate that information is essential for eliminating this scourge from the world. The services that libraries and librarians have traditionally provided remain very important.

(3.) How has the library, or the services provided, changed as a result of these events?

The MIPT and its Terrorism Information Center work closely with emergency agencies on a regular basis. The TIC has held forums to bring members of the law enforcement community together to inform them of the information resources available. We have also brought together fire prevention and preparedness professionals in an effort to inform them of the valuable resources the TIC have to offer. We are currently working with Hospital Security Officials to make sure they are planning and preparing for whatever terrorists bring to the table with another event.

(4.) What, in your opinion, are the roles for librarians and libraries in disaster planning, response and recovery efforts?

I suppose to sum everything up, I would say that librarians need to work closely with their respective communities and serve as neutral forums in bringing to the table people needed to plan and organize community preparedness programs. Whoever their constituency consists of need to be part of the planning. In a city, the mayor, city manager, fire chief, police chief, public health officials and personnel from utilities companies need to meet and develop emergency response plans. Librarians can lead the way in bringing these groups together by providing them with necessary information to develop their own disaster response and recovery plans.

Additional Question:

(5.) Were you involved in the response to any other disaster/emergency situations?

After the anthrax attacks our library staff, which consists of two, assisted the Oklahoma State Office of Civil Emergency Management by answering phone calls from a 24-hour call-in center. A phone number was posted via radio and TV for those having specific questions related to small pox and anthrax. It’s just another service librarians can provide.

University Library for California State University, Northridge

Susan Curzon, Dean of the Oviatt Library at California State University, Northridge, talks about the earthquake that affected the academic library in January 1994.

Interview date: June 27th, 2007

Questions:

(1.) What happened in your community (i.e., what was the disaster/emergency)?

A 6.7 earthquake struck. The center was six miles from campus. Our Library was badly damaged. The Library had been built in two stages (1973 and 1991). The newer part had to be completely torn down and rebuilt. The older part had to have asbestos removal and a great deal of repair. During the six years between the earthquake and full returning to the building, we provided services partly out of the older part of the building, partly out of trailers, and partly out of plastic domes with concrete bases (Sprung Structures). The collection survived but rescue work was necessary because of rain and debris damage. It was very hard going for a long time first to find all of our personnel, rescue the collection, restore what services we could, set up temporary buildings, work on our new building, and document, document for FEMA. Some of our staff was also in very difficult circumstances with loss of their homes or considerable damage.

It is difficult to describe the unceasing labor that was necessary of so many but especially of someone like me as the dean of the library — my shoulder was to the wheel for years — the amount of effort, strategy, and work night and day is indescribable. I am sure it took years off my life.

(2.) How did the library respond? How did the librarian respond? Were there non-traditional (unusual) roles that the librarian performed?

We responded very well although it was a hard go. First, we had to figure out our new “landscape” and knew that nothing would be the same. Initially, a small group of us were standing in an open, muddy field in the rain. Most of the staff had to stay home for the first two weeks because there was nowhere for them to be on so dangerous a campus (hazmat conditions, asbestos, loose pillars, glass and debris everywhere, buildings unstable.)

I had a two pronged approach — first try to provide library service in any way that we could (because our President determined that we would start the semester on time no matter what) and then focus on restoring the building — the latter was very challenging because of the damage. The former very challenging because we had no library. The students and faculty voted for the library to be the number one building restored on campus. It really is impossible to run a university without a library.

(3.) How has the library (or the services provided) changed as a result of these events?

Well, at that time, libraries used technology but not on the scale of today. However, we really took a leap forward in the first year because we decided since everything had radically changed to just go ahead and make the changes we intended to anyway in our strategic plan. There was no point in going back. I am just glad we had a strategic plan we could implement.

I think the changes would have come in time anyway. However, most of our librarians and staff now were not here during the earthquake so the corporate memory of the event is slowly eroding. This was one reason why I wrote the Library Journal article so that somewhere our experience was recorded and with the urgency and voice of yesterday.

(4.) What, in your opinion, are the roles for libraries (and librarians) in disaster planning, response and recovery efforts?

Needless to say, I am not naive about disasters. The truth is you don’t know what the disaster will be, what the scale will be, what the impact will be, or even who will survive. You can do the best you can with having plans, having key people know the plans, having emergency training and emergency supplies but for the rest, we just have to survive on our wits and abilities. It does help to have a strong team going in though; the personality, courage and attitude of the individual were the most important factors – especially courage and a positive attitude.

I think in looking back that we do need to recognize post-traumatic stress more – it is far more powerful than people think. I think the campus started back too early; people should have been given time to get their homes and families in order. I do agree with the importance of starting that semester because people were terrified they would also lose their jobs. It was some months before we needed all of our staff, so they went to serve in any area they could, most especially in the Information Trailer (unfortunately with the name and number, “Trailer 666″). People were so happy to hear a live voice and someone who could actually help them.

(5.) Photographs

(1.) This shows structural damage to one of the steel support beams that supported the West Wing of the Oviatt Library. The severity of damage shown was typical throughout the Oviatt’s structure.

Structural Damage

(2.) & (3.) This shows the effects of the earthquake on the inside of the Oviatt Library. Books, furniture, etc… were thrown and scattered everywhere.

Earthquake Effects in the LibraryEarthquake Effects in the Library

(4.) This photo shows the debris that fell from the Oviatt near the front entrance and portico.

Fallen Debris

(5.) Photo 5 shows earthquake damage to the rear side of the Oviatt Library.

Earthquake Damage to Rear Side of Library

(6.) After the earthquake, temporary tents were set up at the North end of the campus. Here meetings, communications, planning, first aid, security, etc. were coordinated as the campus began to recover and plan for the new semester.

Temporary Tents

(7.) The earthquake took quite an emotional toll on the members of the campus community. Here 2 people console each other up at the tent area during the first few days after the earthquake.

Two workers consoling each other

(8.) This photo depicts one of the many trailers that were set up after the earthquake on campus. They were used as temporary classrooms, office and meeting space, and storage.

Trailer

Gunter Library, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, University of Southern Mississippi

Joyce Shaw, a librarian at the Gunter Library in the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory at the University of Southern Mississippi in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, discusses the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the academic library in August 2005.

Interview date: June 8th, 2007

Questions:

(1.) What happened in your community (i.e., what was the disaster/emergency)?

Ocean Springs, Mississippi was very hard hit by Hurricane Katrina – even though we were 50 miles from where the storm made landfall. The damage was so extensive that we are still living in a disaster zone today.But, it looked like we were out of the way when the storm was still out on the gulf. We had some basic supplies ready. There was an announcement to evacuate, but my family and I did not. I came into the library on the Saturday before the storm. Everything had been up in the air on Friday. Nothing “official” had happened yet. One of my staff was returning from a trip to Atlanta and the other had plans to go to Jackson. Summer School was out by this time, so there were no undergraduates or out of state students on campus (which was very lucky).

We have big windows facing north and I am always worried about it smashing because of debris. I never thought for one minute to worry about flooding.

After implementing our standard hurricane procedures at work, I went home to weather the storm. You couldn’t say that I was terribly prepared; the whole time I only had $12 on me. But, I couldn’t have used it anyways as everything was closed! The electricity went off at about 6:30 am on Monday the 29th. At around 9:30 am a tree hit our house. Then water started coming up at the back of the house from the harbor, which was pretty surprising as our house has an elevation of 21 feet. The storm surge pushed the water into everything. My son and I were running around trying to save our stuff. I grabbed a towel and put it under the door – it was the stupidest thing I could have done! But, I wasn’t thinking straight. I would call it an “in the moment experience.” And we didn’t have it as bad as the people who got stuck up a tree!

The storm just seemed to keep going and going. It seemed to last around 12 hours and after the first six hours it just got so boring (after the excitement of the tree and the water coming up) waiting around for it to end. The next morning, there was no phone. No cell phone. Trees and utility poles were down every where. I walked to the house of one of my library staff lived around five blocks away. It was my first realization at how bad things were. When I came home, my brother and sister-in-law had arrived to tell me my niece and her family had lost their home which had been our grandparent’s house built in 1902. His architectural firm in Gulfport had flooded. He gave me a ride to work. I couldn’t believe how bad the damage was everywhere. We couldn’t get very close to the research lab, but I knew things were bad. In the end, I didn’t get officially called back to work until September 8th. I made several trips to campus prior to that to meet with the director and to grab a year’s worth of blood pressure medicine I had left in my office.

The electricity was out for two weeks. The whole time I was just holed up at home, cleaning debris from the yard every day, listening to radio reports at night of what had happened in New Orleans. There was nothing on the news about the Mississippi coast at first. But, after a while I learned how lucky Ocean Springs was; we didn’t lose our downtown (it was one of the only ones left on the coast). Shelters started to open up on Monday. There was one in the high school in the next town over. Churches were opening their doors too. And the Red Cross arrived and started to provide basic shelter and supplies. The National Guard set up water and ice distribution centers called EOCs. When I wasn’t cleaning up debris around my home, I was waiting in line for ice and water and distributing it to several of my elderly neighbors.

(2.) How did the library respond? How did the librarian respond? Were there non-traditional (unusual) roles that the librarian performed?

Before I left the library, I went through my regular hurricane procedures. I covered the computers with plastic and moved them away from the windows and bagged up everything I could. The library is right on a marsh and a bayou and the campus fronts the Mississippi Sound. This certainly wasn’t my first hurricane warning. I’ve been through this about 6 or 7 times – I pack up the same way every time. I didn’t pick anything up off the floor though (I wish I had).The morning after Katrina, as I was walking to the campus, I encountered one of our parasitologists who was climbing over the debris of several homes that blocked the road to the campus. He told me that buildings were lost on campus. In was pretty interesting (and creepy too) that some of the buildings that were lost to Hurricane Camille in 1969 were also lost this time. The buildings were even named the same! Camille and Katrina had been similar in their paths. Hurricanes are just a fact of life on the Mississippi coast, but not a regular occurrence. Not like this.

Apparently, my building was standing but flooded. But, I couldn’t find a way to get there except over the debris mountain. Right then a woman drove up and asked if I was trying to get into the research lab. She offered a way to get there without crawling over the debris. In exchange, I would help her find her daughter. After we found the daughter, taking a back way she drove me to the gate of the campus and left me there. It was like going through a battle zone. There were a handful of employees doing the same thing I was. I asked one of them if he would go into the library with me. It sounds silly, but I was too scared to go into the building alone. I must have been visibly upset. We pulled and pulled to get the door open. Inside, it was dark and hot. I started to feel faint from the extreme heat. Furniture had been thrown everywhere and there was this muck everywhere. It was slippery and sticky and disgusting. I fell down in it. Even without a flashlight, I could tell we were flooded. I tried to find the emergency file with the phone numbers (not that it would have done any good since there were no phones). I couldn’t find anything for the office being flooded. I did find the file eventually – around nine or ten months later! The label on the file folder had fallen off due to the dampness.

There was nothing more I could do that day, so I went home to start thinking. I was worried about my job. Lots of other people at the research lab were thinking the same thing. They were all wandering around like me, with the same worried looks on their faces.

I went back the next day and talked with the director of the research lab. My library does not answer to the university libraries, we report to the campus director. He gave me permission to hire a catastrophe company to help salvage the library. There were lots of things that I didn’t know at the time about the university’s disaster plans – like that they already had a contract with a disaster company. I tried calling the University Libraries in Hattiesburg every time I found a phone for the next week. I couldn’t get through.

I didn’t know who else to call and I only had two minutes to make a call when I had a working phone. I had grabbed some numbers, including the archivist at Duke University who gave me the number of some companies. I finally got in touch with the University Libraries on the Tuesday after Labor Day and two days later they sent down a representative to assess the damage. It took four more days after that call–two weeks after the storm hit–to get a company to come and the whole time our collection was wet and sitting in muck.

In the meantime, I started to address the environmental conditions. I sealed off the space and cleaned all the vents. Our Physical Plant folks got the electricity on September 8th, so I was able to run de-humidifiers which were important because the building’s HVAC was damaged by the storm. My staff and a graduate student volunteer used Clorox wipes to clean just about everything not water damaged by the flood. I had two lab technicians and two graduate students who began mucking out the building.

We ran the library from the front porch of the building for several weeks. There was a sheltered portico and we set up a desk there. Once classes began about 3 weeks after the storm, the students came back. I would just fetch things for them out of the building. They couldn’t go into the building because it was labeled by state inspectors as unsafe. But, we took our services portable. We had a lap top and just went wherever we were needed. One of my staff worked at home with a laptop compiling an inventory of lost books and journals.

During this time I was asked by one of our scientists to help a retired ichthyologist who lived near campus whose house had severely flooded. Several of us went to his home and found it in terrible condition-books, filing cabinets, this man’s life work-thrown about by the flood water and coated in mold. He was endangering his life trying to work alone in the mold to save his scientific materials. We helped him salvage what he could and packed over 150 boxes of files, books, journals, and reprints. Two years later, the library still has his collection stored. He and his wife have moved from the area and relocated to Atlanta. Their lives have been changed forever.

The company that was hired to clean the library was being used to clean other rooms in the building before doing the library. Then on Wednesday they were sent away because it was determined that their services were too expensive. By this point, I had been waiting and waiting. I couldn’t believe it! Finally (and after talking with the director) a crew started cleaning, but they did a hurry-up and get-out job. They clearly didn’t care. But I did. So, I went back and finished it up myself.

In the end, we lost our bottom shelves of books-everything 13″ or lower. But it could have been worse. We could have lost the bottom two shelves. The hardest part was facing what I had lost. I had to watch as about 20% my collection was picked up by a front loader and put in a dump truck to be taken to a land fill.

We spent weeks outside in front of the building cleaning what furniture we could salvage from the library and the classroom down the hall using bleach and WD-40. The rest of the furniture and our circulation desk were hauled off to debris piles. But we saved our big library table, a book truck, and a host of task chairs and smaller tables from the class room. The University sent down some used furniture from their surplus for our campus and we were given two desks from that donation.

The same clean-up work was going on all over campus. Every person was responsible for cleaning their work space, lab, office, etc. With over 35 employees and students made homeless by the storm, our director made the priority to get the dormitory cleaned and set up as temporary housing for staff and students. National Guardsmen were stationed at the gate and once a day the Red Cross van would bring food to campus for them. Our campus is located in a nice residential area of town that was severely damaged. There were fears of looting especially because there were no streetlights and no people able to live in what was left of their homes. We felt safe having the National Guard close at hand. With humvees, helicopters, armed military, and debris and disaster everywhere, it really did look and feel like a war zone. And we were in the “lightly” hit area. Even 10 miles west of us it was much worse.

(3.) How has the library (or the services provided) changed as a result of these events?

I’m trying my best to make better preparations. Next time, I’ll be sand bagging the building (even if I have to do it myself). I’ve been trying for years to get hurricane shutters and I’ll keep trying. I think I’ve become more proactive about fighting for the things I need.The library went portable for a long time. We didn’t really have much choice as we had to serve our students and faculty. We now have wireless access in the library which is good because many of our faculty and students had replace their desk top computers with laptops.

The library received a SOLINET (Southeastern Library Network) grant to help rebuild the collection. I had to make a list of everything that we had lost; there were over 1300 books. It was emotionally devastating to go through the list, trying to decide what to replace. I was faced with the names of items that were irreplaceable. I realized that you can’t ever get it all back, no matter how much money people give you.

We received a donation from Rotary Zones 29 and 30 to replace lost equipment and furniture. And we received two computers, a scanner, and five books from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine/Southeastern Atlantic region. These gifts have been a blessing.

(4.) What, in your opinion, are the roles for libraries (and librarians) in disaster planning, response and recovery efforts?

Librarians need to save the libraries. I wish I could have been more involved in the community response, but I had too much on my plate and little support. If I could do it again, I would be more proactive. Librarians have to make themselves heard. They should be disaster management teams for their universities. I tried my best at the time, but my voice just wasn’t heard. Being part of an institution didn’t help. No one thought about the library; the place was just too hard hit. I did my best to rise to the occasion, but all I could do was try to save what was left of the library. But now I am on three different task forces and doing my best to be heard.Librarians really need to get some perspective. I received a survey questionnaire months later asking how effective a blog had been at helping me. I couldn’t believe it. A blog? How effective was their blog??? I wanted to yell at those people, “Don’t start a blog! Go and help! Just go!”

Here are pictures that illustrate Joyce Shaw’s story:

Photo by A. Russel. [Joyce is...] in the pink socks. August 8th 2005

Joyce next to book case

August 2005 035 (photo by A. Russell) Gunter Library Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Gunter Library Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Caylor water line after Katrina 30 inches in the hall way but only 13″ to 15″ in the library–very lucky! (J. Shaw photo)

Water Line in Library

GCRL Karina (5) library in the portico of the building. Those are BMS Cat. guys (the clean up company) horsing around. (J. Shaw photo)

BMS cat. guys

GCRL Karina (1) Library furniture (and stuff from some of the laboratories) in a debris pile.

Debris Pile

107 Pine Drive on 30 August 2005 This was my house the day after Katrina.

Joyce Shaw's Home

107 Pine Drive Katrine (2) Within a few day after the storm, everything turned brown! The salt spray burned the trees. Compare this photo which was about 2 weeks after the storm to the day after. The area looked like somebody took a match to everything!

Two weeks later

A big limb smashed the door and the wind blew the pictures out of the frames! Hallway of Caylor Building–where the library is located. (photo by Joyce Shaw)

Hallway of Caylor Building

August 2005 038 (A. Russell photo)

Library Stack

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Louisiana State University, School of Library and Information Sciences

Adelaide Fletcher, currently a librarian at the Denver Medical Library, Presbyterian / St. Luke’s Medical Library in Denver, Colorado and formerly a student at Louisiana State University, School of Library and Information Sciences in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, discusses her Hurricane Katrina experience from August 2005.

Interview date: June 8th, 2007

Questions:

(1.) What happened in your community (i.e., what was the disaster/emergency)?

I was a student at Louisiana State University’s School of Library and Information Sciences when Hurricane Katrina swept through the gulf coast. At the time, I was in Baton Rouge. But, I ended up volunteering at The Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales (about half way between Baton Rouge and New Orleans). The Expo Center filled with more than 1800 evacuees from New Orleans after the levees broke.

(2.) How did the library respond? How did the librarian respond? Were there non-traditional (unusual) roles that the librarian performed?

I volunteered at the Expo Center, doing whatever was required. I provided “general support,” getting people toothbrushes, basic supplies, etc… It was while I was getting someone an aspirin that I stumbled upon the medical treatment area of the Expo Center. I saw a Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) lying around and I asked the doctor if he wanted more reference materials. He asked for a Merck Manual and three Washington Manuals.

I posted a request for books to the medical libraries listserv, MEDLIB-L and three other listservs. Well, the email was forwarded and forwarded … And the books came and came … They all came to my home. It was a tremendous response! The medical librarians sent some great books – much better than the ones I originally requested. I tried to send as many thank you notes as I could, but there were just too many donations. Some of the books were unsuitable (like a 1965 Merck Manual), but I had more than enough to build a collection in the shelter.

I tried my best to distribute the extra books but it was an absolute nightmare getting around at that time. Also, I didn’t know where the other shelters were located. Later, I ended up donating materials to under funded local hospital libraries in Southeast Louisiana.. I worked with my friend Becky Hebert, an outreach librarian for the Mid Atlantic Chapter of the National Network of the Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM). She and I tried to supply shelter health care providers with computers, Internet connections and volunteer librarians to do distance searching. Her husband worked in IT and he helped get a bunch of free computers. Unfortunately, most of those computers weren’t used because they had Linux as an operating system and people couldn’t fill out their FEMA forms unless they had Internet Explorer. But, people needed to get online. Eventually, FEMA provided a few lap tops. These helped a bit with reference and searching for people, but they were mostly used by kids to play games. I worked a bit helping people use the computers, especially since many were unfamiliar with the use of a mouse and keyboard. Web 2.0 responded in a big way; but, it could only go so far. People on the ground were unable to take full advantage of blogs and wikis, etc… because they didn’t have:

1. the connectivity

2. the computer skills

3. the knowledge of what was out there to help them.

After it was all over, I wrote an article about my experiences.

(3.) What did you learn from this experience?

The experience was totally exhausting and it took an emotional toll as well. But, in the end, I learned a lot. For example, there were a lot of shelters that were in the same boat. My response could have been much more coordinated. I did ask for multiple copies of resources, but I didn’t plan a way to deliver them. And the next time I appeal for donations on a listserv, I will be more specific and include a time limit. I should have asked for current materials and different titles. People wanted to help, but I didn’t tell that what exactly was needed and my friends and I quickly got bogged down in the details. A lot of items were received well after the point when they could have been any use.

(4.) What, in your opinion, are the roles for libraries (and librarians) in disaster planning, response and recovery efforts?

There isn’t really one answer to that question because every disaster is so different. Librarians shouldn’t wait for an invitation; just start helping. People needed basics and they didn’t necessarily think about information. But, they really did need information; just look at how the public libraries were overwhelmed. So many people turned to the library. There is definitely a role for the library in a community disaster response.

When I was serving food with Becky, We realized that there had to be something more that we could offer. There were hordes of volunteers, but we could offer something different. That was how we got started. But, it was hard being “free agents.” No one wanted to talk to us and it was hard to articulate what we wanted to do. The Red Cross didn’t have time to talk to us. We tried to find out from them where the other shelters were, but they were having a hard enough time figuring that out themselves. The Red Cross was overwhelmed with need and volunteers at the same time, but they couldn’t handle both in that magnitude.

I went to the Red Cross headquarters first off, but they told me that I was too late for the training session that day. They told me to come back in a few days But, when we went to a shelter that night, the need was urgent and they pulled us right in! That was how we ended up at Lamar Dixon, which was desperate for volunteers. There just seemed to be this disconnect between the Red Cross central office and “its” shelters.

A lot of library school students helped. But they all went off on their own right away. I can see a role for the library schools in organizing the student volunteers. In many ways we were ideal because we were more available to help out. I was encouraged by my boss, the dean, to volunteer rather than work.

But actual coordinated groups didn’t form until later. I think that librarians need to be more unified in their initial response. We could learn a lot from the church groups. The Scientologists, for example, were everywhere. They wore matching shirts. They identified themselves. They seemed to be totally organized. Religious organizations did more for anyone than any government agency. That’s just what they do; they respond immediately. And they never stopped to ask, “should we help?” I think librarians were way too hesitant about helping out. They need to learn to trust their instincts. When the time comes, you’ll know what people need and how to help them.

University of California San Diego

Julie Page, Head of the Preservation Department at the Geisel Library at the University of California San Diego, talks about the flood that affected the neighboring academic library at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in October 2004 and the library’s participation in the recovery efforts.

Interview date: June 1st , 2007

Questions:

(1.) What happened in your community (i.e., what was the disaster/emergency)?

I was called in to help the University of Hawaii at Manoa when a flash flood caused a stream to jump its banks in the hills above the campus. The flood affected the medical and science buildings and their labs and around 20 other buildings including the library. The first floor library building was below grade and it completely filled with water. Water poured into one side of the building and out the other. Inside, the water sloshed around like a washing machine.

The library had a disaster plan but the university did not. It took them a long time to get back on their feet. Everything took forever; it took two and a half months for generators to get hooked up to provide power to the four story library building that was affected. Getting supplies and services to the island was difficult and time consuming. About 25 staff members were displaced from their offices and work spaces. Luckily, aside from the university campus, there was very little damage done to the rest of the community.

(2.) How did the library respond? How did the librarian respond? Were there non-traditional (unusual) roles that the librarian performed?

The University Librarian at UC San Diego was well-known to the library administration at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He offered assistance right away. During the first week, the library staff salvaged as much as they could of the collection. I went over to help out 15 days after the flooding occurred. Observing the disaster first hand provided me with on-the-ground experience in a disaster situation. But, before that point, they weren’t ready to deal with the myriad of insurance, psychological, and preservation issues; they needed time to get back on their feet.

Initially, I was there for four days and then went back two months later. I was sent back to help the University Librarian. It was a complicated situation since there were problems to deal with on both the campus level and the library level. To some extent, the library had been overlooked. I went back to UHM two and a half years later to take part in follow-up assessments of the recovery and evaluation of affected materials. A big plus was that the Preservation Librarian used the UHM experiences as a learning experience to be shared with the rest of the preservation community – through articles, symposia, and other collaborative efforts.

The expectation at first was that I would help to deal with the insurance issues. Priority materials had been put in freezers; luckily the library had established priorities ahead of time. They were only able to salvage about 15% of the first floor collections. Maps and photographs and some book collections were saved. They focused their attention on preserving priority materials important to the campus and Pacific region.

Cargo container freezer storage was acquired from Matson (shipping company) as soon as possible, in accordance with the library disaster plan. There were five large freezers parked around the library for several weeks. Then Matson wanted their containers back. The university kept one cargo freezer with materials that they were going to preserve in their own conservation lab. Many other objects had to be moved to cold storage, and I helped them evaluate and transfer the materials. The disaster recovery company BELFOR, headquartered in Ft. Worth, TX was hired to handle the recovery of the priority materials including setting protocols for treatment, shipping from Hawaii to Texas, vacuum freeze drying and cleaning the maps, photographs and books, as well as shipping them back to Hawaii.

(3.) How has the library (or the services provided) changed as a result of these events?

The university learned a couple of important lessons. The first was never to keep collections on first floors, in basements, or in below-grade buildings. The second was about leadership. If you don’t have enough administrative depth — not enough people at the higher levels — it is very challenging to make good decisions in a crisis. You do the best you can, with the information and staff you have. You need a strong leader and administrative depth. In general, they discovered the importance of flexibility. In order to deal with any disaster event, you need to be capable of constantly evaluating and changing your course of action.

(4.) What, in your opinion, are the roles for libraries (and librarians) in disaster planning, response and recovery efforts?

Libraries can offer emergency assistance in their area through regional centers with preservation services. They can also offer training to other institutions to pass on the knowledge for dealing with emergency situations.

Every library should have a disaster plan; the institution should know how it will communicate and what their priorities will be. They should exercise the plans through practice so that they are prepared when the time comes.

Librarians should build relationships with emergency responders and understand ICS (Incident Command System). Collaborations should also be developed with volunteer organizations, particularly those who are distributing medical information. Libraries can help a great deal by establishing communications, developing collaborative relationships, and effectively training staff to respond to an emergency or disaster.